Jeanne Lewis held several different roles during her employment at Staples, Inc. (Suesse, 2000). There are four leader behaviors in the Path-Goal model, each of which was used by Lewis at different times and in different situations. The following examples include a discussion of Lewis behavior, how her behavior relates to the Path-Goal model, employees response to Lewis behavior, and how the employees behavior relates to the Path-Goal Theory. Achievement Leadership In 1994 Lewis was promoted to New England Director of Operations, inheriting an organization lacking in strong leadership, but with knowledgeable employees.
Lewis replaced some employees, set aggressive performance goals and challenged employees. These actions are indicative of the Achievement leadership style, wherein the leader is both demanding and supportive, sets challenging goals, seeks continuous improvement, expects high performance, and encourages workers to assume more responsibility (Woolard, 2009). Lewis employees responded with increased motivation; launching new training programs and setting high goals for themselves.
This behavior is representative of the Path-Goal theory wherein followers adopt high goals leading to improved satisfaction and performance (Hersey, 2008, p. 00). The Achievement Leadership style is used when there is a lack of job challenge in the follower. Directive Leadership Lewis was then moved to Merchandising, another area in which she had no direct work experience. With no time for her reports to teach her the ins and outs of merchandising, Lewis adopted the style of a Directive Leader and told her staff to fix it and fix it fast. The Directive Leader tells what is expected, how and when to do it and communicates how the task fits in with other tasks in the organization. The response from her employees to this style was favorable.
They expanded their thinking beyond just the cost of the product and the selling price, developing strategic thinking which resulted in a tripling of the direct product profitability. Lewis boss, Richard Gentry, remarked, Jeanne demonstrated that you can be a good merchant but you can also be strategic and think outside of the four walls (Suisse, 2000, p. 5). The impact to the follower of the Directive leadership style is clarification of the path to the goal. The employees expanded their thinking to encompass the broad steps in their path to expected unit performance. Supportive Leadership
When Lewis was selected to replace the departing Executive Vice President of Marketing, Todd Krasnow, she once again had to adapt her leadership style in response to her team. Lewis was placed in charge of retail marketing and small business to learn the ropes during Krasnows final time at Staples. The department was comprised of two different groups: marketing and an in-house advertising agency. When she challenged a marketing program with the direct, rough and tumble style she was accustomed to using in her previous assignments in operations and merchandising, the person presenting the idea was devastated.
Lewis would have to adopt a Supportive style or would have people leaving my office in tears and end up accomplishing nothing. Lewis made an effort to be approachable, with an open door policy. In this situation, where the follower lacks self confidence, a Supportive or Relationship behavior is needed. The Supportive Leader demonstrates concern for the well being of followers and is open and approachable. Employees responded favorably to her change in style. Supportive leader behavior has in it the objective to increase confidence in the follower, thereby increasing their productivity and performance. Participative Leadership
When merger plans with Office Depot were blocked by the courts, the Staples management team refocused on growth and profitability of the Staples brand. In Lewis mind, the marketing department was the brand champion and key support for other departments. The department was divided, however, with a marketing and advertising side that did not operate in concert. Lewis remarked, the thought I would go home with at night was, if they knew more, then they would do a better job. Lewis began holding staff meetings in an attempt to share information and decision making and break down the wall between the departments. I was amazed that while we had this huge marketing budget that everyone shared, no one knew what the other people were doing (Suesse, 2000, p. 8). A Participative Leader approaches the task in a consulting, group-wise manner. They share work problems and solicit suggestions in an effort to include the entire organization in the decision-making process. Lewis expanded meetings with direct reports in an attempt to increase group interaction and encouraged advertising managers to share their work across business unit boundaries.
This style changes reward and clarifies the needs of the followers. In Lewis case she was able to get key stakeholders in differing departments to buy in to more strategic thinking. Jeanne Lewis was given ever increasing responsibility at Staples due to her ability to adapt her leadership style to match the changing needs of her subordinates. By following the Path-Goal Theory, Lewis was able to harness the power of her followers and achieve success for the organization.